I have come to believe that the greatest battle of our age is not, as one would suppose, the “war on terror,” meaning terrorists. I believe it is an invisible war with its own element of terror, which every human heart either longs for or repels decisively.
Pascal, whom I have been reading (the Pensées), describes the character of one has who set himself up as his own god: “He [or she] wants to be the object of love and esteem . . . He devotes all his attention to hiding his faults both from others and from himself. He conceives a mortal enmity against that truth which reproves him. He would annihilate it, but, unable to destroy it in its essence, he destroys it in so far as possible.”
It explains on many levels, why the believing Christian community is reviled by so many. Indeed the community has buffoons enough to merit it. But we are not all buffoons and more so than not, most Christian people go about their lives of faith inconspicuously and in earnest consideration of reflecting of the love of God.
Our battle comes down to this: remembering God in a world that has forgotten him or deposed him. Those of us who believe in God, know him to be good, kind, generous, mysterious and — most vexing of all his attributes: unable to be fooled.
The circumstance in which a person or community assumes the prerogatives of God or thinks to fool God levels the greatest challenge of our time to the believing members of the community of faith. God does not wag his finger, contrary to the popular belief of some, and we are wrong to wag ours. He is good at exhibiting patience and practicing persistence, organizing his movements in perfect juxtaposition in a way that opens us to act freely and at the same time draws us irresistibly away from self-deceptions.
We live in a universe of players who live by the cravings to be like God. “Each degree of good fortune that raises him in the world removes him farther from the truth, because he is afraid of wounding those whose affection is most useful and whose dislike is most dangerous” (Pascal).
When I ask myself, what is this “truth” that we as God-bearers are called to communicate, I come to see that the answer is quite simple: We (meaning humans) are not God and it is best to leave his prerogatives to him. It is liberating if one can truly apprehend it.
Regarding how we can assume a posture that communicates this meaningfully in a confused and often hostile world, I draw consolation from the words of Saint Francis of Assisi:
“Since you speak of peace, all the more so must you have it in your hearts. Let none be provoked to anger or scandal by you, but rather may they be drawn to peace and good will, to benignity and concord through your gentleness. We have been called to heal wounds, to unite what has fallen apart, and to bring home those who have lost their way.”
The challenge of our time is to impart this truth in a way that appropriately echoes God’s loving, aching heart.
Almighty God, bestow upon us the meaning of words, the light of understanding, the nobility of diction, and the faith of the true nature. And grant that what we believe we may also speak.
Saint Hilary (c. 315-368), Bishop of Poitiers
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